book club

BOOK HUNGRY: life as we knew it

who says you have to be crowded into the living room, kitchen, and/or dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is: 

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by susan beth pfeffner

what it’s about from amazon: Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

my opinion: i first read this book in december of 2009 and i’ve thought about it pretty much every month since. i wouldn’t classify it as a favorite book of mine because as soon as i finished it, i was relieved to be done and i didn’t want to ever read it again. why not? because this book? it is terrifying. not in a scary monster chasing you, things popping up to startle you, but in a way that this. could. happen.

and i don’t know if i’d survive if it did.

(side note: i checked the pantry at least five times while reading this to take stock of the canned goods we had on hand to see if my family could handle the moon shifting out of orbit.)

i willingly chose this book for this month and forced myself to read it again because i was curious to re-read it as a writer and not as a reader. this time around, i was still completely freaked out, but the fact that it wasn’t snowing out certainly helped and looking at it with an analytical eye definitely served to soothe the nerves.

even still, this read left me feeling completely desolate and isolated and creeped out.

this book is so hard to explain because it’s well written and compelling, but not in a good way. you don’t really want to know what happens, but you have to know things get better for everyone, or well, at least for the evans family. and so i kept reading.

(another side note: i love my sleep. there isn’t much that can keep me awake, but this book did. i read until the wee hours of the night hoping and searching for something redeeming even though i already knew how it ended.)

the other interesting thing about this book (besides the situations) is the characters. for one thing, miranda’s attitude is spot on. sure, she can be whiny and self-pitying, but that’s a completely normal attitude for a teenager. it just so happens she now lives in a world that’s absolutely abnormal and so her attitude can sometimes seem off-putting, but yet, still completely age appropriate. the mother was sturdy and consistent. the brothers are strong and reliable. this family survives in a world probably not many of us would want to survive in.

that’s probably why this book still haunts me.

i mean this literally.

various scenes and comments and characters and situations plague my brain and this story hovers over me as if it’s an overbearing mother, which, i’m grateful to have and who would probably save my family if something like this book actually happened.) what was i saying? oh yes, the EMOTIONS and SITUATIONS in this story are raw and honest and scary and true and overwhelming, which is what classifies this as a top notch book in my opinion because any book that can make you feel is one that deserves to be read.

and this book? oh yes, this book makes you feel EVERY SINGLE TERRIFYING AND BORING SECOND.

and, to quote patty from our group’s discussion, “i felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that this book was fiction.”

ME TOO. oh, me too.

now the real question is, will the other ladies forgive me for making them read something so horrifying (albeit compelling) during a month that’s usually filled with christmas cheer?

next month, we’ll break away from the dark theme of this month + of karla’s usual reading choice as she has us take on AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green.


convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #16

i talked to a stranger?!?!

adriana had momentarily stepped away leaving me manning the beers at the bar. when things like this happen, i’ve been doing my best not to pull out the phone, but to be present in the moment, look around the bar/restaurant, and be okay with sitting there alone.

(it’s beside the point that with my scarf and gloves stuffed into my purse, it took me 15 minutes to zip it up. i was NOT about to open my bag to get out my phone only to have to put it away upon adriana’s return.)

as it turned out, this was the perfect opportunity to ask the bartender about the DELICIOUS beer i was drinking. it was called otter creek black alpine IPA.

me: *points to the tap* where’s this beer from?

girl bartender: oh, umm, *pauses* i know this, but now that you’ve asked, i’m drawing a blank.

me: no worries. i was just curious because this beer is so good. i’ve never heard of it before.

girl bartender turns to boy bartender: do you know where this is from?

boy bartender: *opens menu* vermont.

me: thanks.

adriana returned and i reported my findings. we delighted in the fact that with the beer made in new england, it meant there’s a higher likelihood of me being able to find it again.


FWIS: growing your story

remember this post? remember these two ladies? jessica corra and bria quinlan? good, because it’s time for another round.

today’s topic: growing your story.

in keeping with the theme from last month, i happen to be at the beginning of this stage as well. i finished my disaster draft on november 10 and then i didn’t look at it again until december 1, three weeks later. i was attempting to get some space from the story and the characters before i dove in to do the revisions.

oh, but first, a little tidbit about me. i am an under writer. no, not this kind but rather, someone who (on the first draft) writes less rather than more. my first draft clocked in at 44K and a typical YA novel runs anywhere from 60K-80K words, so you can see i have a lot of growing to do.

the things i’ve done to grow (other than drink lots of milk and eat vegetables) are character interviews, chapter mapping and world building. also, taking notes and making suggestions and fixing dialogue and printing out my story and handwriting revisions and moving scenes around and deleting portions and adding phrases and puffing up passages and phew!

growing is hard.

but audiences are perceptive and precocious and practically perfect and so i don’t want to disappoint any of them even if, at this juncture, they’re only imaginary.

so, onward and forward and backward and sideways and every which way the story demands because i want smooth transitions and moments that make you weep and uncontainable giggles and characters so real, you have to pat the couch to make sure they’re not sitting next to you.

make sure to check out bria’s and jessica’s posts to see what types of growing they’re doing.

convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #15

strangers? talking to them? yes, sir.

i placed my to go order and headed over to the four available chairs to wait. there was a girl in one of the chairs, so i sat at the other end. this, however, placed me about 12 inches away from a couple eating their appetizers.

as easy as it would have been to join their conversation, that’s particularly rude and i don’t count that among my personality traits. i opened my magazine and commenced waiting.

*time passed*

girl employee to other girl employee: “is there an abby here?”

other girl employee to girl employee: “yes.”

i perked up and started to gather my things as they called out my name.

they handed me my dinner and there was a flurry of action behind the counter, but the girl made no move to ask me for money. before she questioned why i was lingering, i offered up my reason for doing so: “i never paid for this.”

girl: “oh wow, thanks for being so honest. most people would have just walked out without paying.”

me: “seriously?” i forked over my cash. “that’s insane.”

girl: “yeah, well. they would. they do. anyways, enjoy your food.”

me: “thanks. have a good night.”

i left pondering the possibility the girl had proposed. would most people really have left without paying? it never even occurred to me to do so, and in fact, i felt embarrassed the girl had to thank me for doing the right thing.

just then the steam from my meal rose up around me and my stomach growled. i stopped thinking and started walking faster because on a chilly winter night, a hot meal sure is better than a cold one.